I have been fortunate enough to have used a lot of vintage manual lenses with DSLRs and wanted to put together a list of the prime sets I recommend. Using a vintage manual lenses is not only the cheapest way to get lenses, but a beautiful way too.
Here is a list of vintage manual lenses for video cameras that I recommend.
Nikkor (F Mount) Primes
Nikkors are some of the best glass on the planet. The vintage Nikkors come in 3 flavors: NON-AI, AI and AIS lenses.
NON-AI lenses are the oldest of the bunch dating back to 1959. These lenses aren’t all the sharpest, but you can get them for a steal. A NON-AI 50mm F1.4 costs around $70 in excellent condition.
AI Nikkor lenses showed up in the 70’s with some updated glass. These lenses are better quality than the NON-AI and aren’t that much more expensive depending on the lens and condition.
AIS Nikkor lenses were born in the 80’s and while they look similar to the AI lenses, they have the best build quality and look out of the three types. Some of these lenses are actually still manufactured by Nikon today, like the 50mm F1.2. I had a set of these before I moved to the city and sold them. I miss them greatly. Amazing glass.
Pentax Screw (M42 Mount) Lenses
The M42 mount is a screw mount and unlike most bayonet mounts, the M42 mount is very strong since it uses threads. One can’t really say anything bad about these lenses. They’re cheap, flexible, come in almost endless brands and focal lengths and the adapters are solid since they screw on. You own it to yourself to check these lenses out.
Olympus (OM Mount) Primes
Contax (C/Y Mount) Primes
Contax has a very interesting history that you can read here including camera designs by Porsche Studios and more. These prime lenses are at the top of the pile in terms of quality. These lenses were so good infact, that Zeiss entered into a licensing agreement with Contax to produce lenses together. While these lenses can get very expensive, you can find their 50mm F1.9 and other slower lenses for a good deal online.
Canon FD lenses
FD lenses were developed by Canon starting in 1971 but were replaced with the new EOS series of lenses that we know of today. These lenses can be had for cheap (around $20 for a 50mm F1.8) but with a catch, they require an adapter with an optic to work with APS-C and full frame cameras. That optic in the adapter makes these lenses a little softer than Canon EOS lenses and the other vintage lenses we’ve already looked at. That said, these lenses work fantastically with MFT mount sensors like the ones Panasonic and Blackmagic use and don’t require that optic in the adapter.